A group of movie companies is suing VPN provider VeePN in federal court in Virginia. People say that the VPN service broke various copyright laws. They say, among other things, that VeePN “promotes” using pirate sites and Popcorn Time because it advertised its services on the popular torrent site YTS.mx.
During the last year, a group of independent movie companies sued VPN providers several times.
The people who made movies like “I Feel Pretty” and “Dallas Buyers Club” say that these services don’t care about piracy or even encourage it.
A number of these lawsuits have ended in settlements.VPN services agreed to block known pirate sites or BitTorrent traffic on US-based servers. These cases can, of course, significantly affect the companies involved.
Movie Companies Sue VeePN
In a new lawsuit filed in a federal court in Virginia, several movie companies, including Voltage Holdings and Screen Media Ventures, name VPN provider VeePN as their next target. The filmmakers say that VeePN actively supports piracy and uses it as a PR opportunity.
Even though not all VPN services are bad, apparently VeePN uses the fear of getting caught pirating as a marketing strategy.
“[S]ome unscrupulous VPN providers have taken advantage of this widely known risk by promoting their VPN services as essential tools for piracy. These VPN providers emphasize in advertisements that they delete their end users’ log access records so their identities will never be disclosed to copyright owners or law enforcement.
“Emboldened by these promises that their identities will never be disclosed, end users use the VPN services to engage in widespread movie piracy while openly boasting of their piracy and outrageous criminal conduct such as illegal hacking and theft,” the filmmakers add.
One of the complainants is the Hawaiian company 42 Ventures, which is also a film company. This company is run by anti-piracy lawyer Kerry Culpepper. It owns the trademarks for “Popcorn Time,” “YTS,” and “RARBG,” which VeePN is also accused of misusing.
‘Popcorn Time VPN’
The complaint brings together a long list of charges. Kerry Culpepper, a lawyer who fights against piracy, runs this company. It shows that the company wasn’t just a random target. Instead, it seems to have been because VPN.ht was calling itself the Popcorn Time VPN.
After having legal problems with the popular piracy app, VPN.ht broke ties with it last year. The lawsuit says that VeePN started to promote itself using the Popcorn Time brand soon after that.
“Barely 3 months after VPN.HT terminated its involvement with Popcorn Time, VeePN begin promoting itself as ‘Popcorn Time VPN’ and operating under a similar profitable scheme to take advantage of prolific pirates’ fear of getting caught.”
The complaint gives several examples. Such as a blog post on the VeePN website that suggests using a VPN with Popcorn Time to avoid trouble.
‘Advertising on YTS.mx’
“Downloading and sharing files via torrent is a violation of copyright law. It means that you may be punished by law. That’s why you need a Popcorn Time VPN. This way, you hide your IP address and decrease the risks of getting into danger.”
The problems don’t stop there. VeePN is also accused of actively advertising its services on YTS.mx, the most popular torrent site on the internet.
“VeePN takes it a step further and even promotes its VPN service on the notorious piracy website YTS as an essential tool to download copies of Plaintiffs’ movies without ‘…get[ting] fined by legal action!’,” the plaintiffs write.
The complaint says that VeePN made a deal with YTS to be an associate. YTS advertises VeePN and gets paid for every person who signs up. This partnership helps VeePN by bringing in more users.
The evidence doesn’t make it clear if VeePN actively looked for YTS as a partner. Still, the plaintiffs are sure that the company is going after pirates and making money from them.
The movie studios sent hundreds or thousands of DMCA notices to VeePN’s hosting company, DataCamp, to stop its users from pirating movies. But it wasn’t enough to stop the illegal activity.
Millions in Copyright and Trademark Damages
VeePN is also accused of violating the DMCA and infringing on trademarks, in addition to the various copyright violations. 42 Ventures filed the latter, saying that VeePN used its YTS, RARBG, and Popcorn Time trademarks without permission.
“VeePN has advertised and offered its goods and services for sale using 42’s trademarks with the intention of misleading, deceiving or confusing consumers as to the origin of its goods and of trading on Plaintiff 42’s reputation and goodwill,” the complaint reads.
The plaintiffs want the infringing activity to stop, and they also want to get paid. The people who own the rights are asking for a total of nearly $10 million in damages. This includes $6 million in trademark and $3.9 million in copyright damages.